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Taken from our Osnabruck page
Hi Joe, I've been reading the posts on the 'Hunger strike in Germany'. I remember it so well, mainly because to understand you have to look at the bigger picture at the time. There were some wonderful 'snapshots in the posts that really got the brain cells working.
Let me start by saying first off that I learned of the hunger strike while still in bed in Blighty, rudely awakened by my father with the morning edition that declared as you posted, soldiers on hunger strike in Germany.
It came as no surprise as I had already intimated to my parents that food wise things were not well in our regiment, while we were never the best fed soldiers in Germany things began to spiral downward in the months leading to the unrest.
Things I saw and things I heard in those months defy belief at times, just how bad it became can be highlighted in not just a few words.
Whilst on guard duty one night I was a late stag, 12 'til 2 am and patrolling the cookhouse. I saw two shadowy figures running round the opposite side to where I was so I entered the cookhouse and saw the same two climb in through a window. I was in the canteen side and a locked door was between us, doing my John Wayne impression I kicked open the door and confronted the pair of them, I was as surprised as them really as it turned out they were corporal and lance corporal. They begged me to turn a blind eye as they were very hungry, but as it was my stag they were on I wasn't going to let them get away with it. Since nothing had yet been taken, I offered them, at the point of a bayonet, to bugger off or be marched to the guardhouse. Being confronted with a rifle and bayonet held by a six foot one fusilier they readily agreed to leave.
The cookhouse starred again in a somewhat comic fashion as another lance corporal decided to engage in a bit of midnight feasting, the corporal in question was the one I corresponded with you about sometime ago, a certain Mr Wilgoss. He was caught on his way down to the lines with half a side of beef on his back (and the said the fusiliers don't do things by halves), he was of course, on being caught red handed, run straight into the guardhouse. Later he was charged and lost his stripe and did a good number of days in the clink. I might mention here that as far as I recollect the Provost Sergeant was Jack Nash.
In another first hand incident whilst out on exercise as a signaller to A company, I was called back to HQ at three in the morning, how that driver found his way around in the pitch black forest I'll never know, but coming off duty in HQ at five am I hit the sack and slept in late. On making my way to the camp cookhouse I saw the cook sergeant and two German civvies stowing armfuls of rations into the boot of a VW car, surprised as I was I made sure I wasn't seen, I believe coffee was a big earner at the time. I just made a mental note and let it go.
I was fortunate enough to be on a very good swimming team prior to the food strike affair and as we were winning our way through to BAOR finals we got to see how the other half live, namely feeding in other regiments canteens. What an eye opener, we didn't just get what was slapped on our plate as in our canteen, no, we helped ourselves to the equivalent of a buffet, we were in wonderland, cereals of choice, fresh chips, sausage and bacon, eggs, fresh veg, boy did we enjoy it. Why oh why can others be so well fed while we, the fusiliers were so poorly fed.


When I say poorly fed you have to realise that whenever we could afford it the NAAFI on our camp came up with the best egg and chips I have ever tasted, egg and chip barms, wonderful. The NAAFI canteen did a roaring trade, if it hadn't been for them we would have been on the best slimming diet ever invented. The young man running the canteen had been the one sending the headline news to the press back home, he really was a great mate to the lads and obviously felt for them. By the time I returned fro my fortnights leave he was long gone, such a shame he should lose his job, as was the removal of our C.O.
Remaining with first hand accounts, the canteen, apart from serving the worst food imaginable, also had a huge problem with hygiene, namely cockroaches, it was so bad the civvie staff, ladies were sweeping them into piles one day when I was there prior to them being dumped in a bin, I was used to seeing them running about in the cornflake dishes bur even so it was a sight to see.
The food problems also affected the junior officers, I say this as unsubstantiated rumours had it that Compo rations left over from manoeuvres were highly sought, so much so, again the squaddies were made o suffer, if it hadn't been for all in stew, A company, in deference to their S/M nicknamed it 'Yappy's scrappy stew'.

First hand again, while out as a D company signaller, the young officer in charge of our platoon dished out such meagre rations that one of the lads, a rough and ready lad from Bury, a regular, had enough. As were moving to another destination he opened up the Compo boxes and treated us all in the back of the three ton truck to chocolate bars sweets and biscuits, we had a real feast even though it was with some trepidation. The officer, who had been blissfully unaware as he sat in the front, was furious when we stopped and he found the rations raided. He demanded to know who the guilty party was and out stepped our fearless fusilier declaring loudly, 'it was me sir'. He was put on open arrest and the officer declared he would be subject to a court martial, to which our fearless fusilier declared, 'and so will you sir for starving us'. Oddly enough the matter never came to light even though the officer was a strict regimental type.

Did things improve after the so called hunger strike? Well yes, as was indicated in the posts on the web page, we had a warrant officer from the ACC drafted in and what a difference that made, it was like we had been transferred to Billy Butlins such was the difference. It was good while it lasted but we all waited to see how long it would last after the departure of the cookhouse fairy godfather.

In conclusion I would simply say to the ones who thought the lads were just whingers, not so, it was a bad time, justifiably brought to an end. I would also add that at this time the regiment was made up of mainly National Service lads, poorly paid and aware that in order to get through your two years, and out in two years, the less said about your peers the better.
Joe, if you can use any of this, one mans recollections of National Service, by all means do so. I enjoyed my stint as a fusilier, never thought I would say that, I would go so far as to say it crossed my mind about rejoining not too long after demob, Don Ashton felt the same way. Just how much can be crammed into two years, an awful lot, this is just a tiny bit, cheers,
Anthony Bowles.

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